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Sampras withdraws from Italian Open [Apr 30, 2003]

Associated Press
Rome, April 30

Pete Sampras has withdrawn from next week’s Italian Open, sending a strong signal that he does not plan on taking part in the clay-court season that culminates with the French Open. The Italian Open is considered the premiere tuneup event for the French, the year’s second Grand Slam and the only Slam that Sampras has never won.

The 31-year-old Californian has not played since winning the U.S. Open in September for a record 14th Grand Slam singles title. He has entered a number of tournaments in the past two months, only to withdraw.

Sampras gave “no reason” for withdrawing, ATP Tour spokesman Rob Penner said Wednesday, and he will not be penalized since he pulled out with more than three days notice.

Penner said Sampras called the ATP’s office in the United States late Tuesday to make his plans known.

“He’s still making up his mind on what he wants to do with his tennis,” Penner said. “And the way these tournaments are set up he has to withdraw each time.”

Sampras has requested and was granted a wild card for the Wimbledon warm-up tournament at Queens Club, which follows the French Open and is the year’s first on grass.

The Italian Open is one of the few clay-court events Sampras has won, taking the title in 1994.

His name was added to a list of withdrawals that already included world No. 2 Lleyton Hewitt, who decided to pull out after being told by doctors to rest.

Sampras’ top rival Andre Agassi, who surpassed Hewitt for the No. 1 ranking last week, is scheduled to defend his title in Rome when the tournament starts Monday.

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